Enchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers

It’s dress rehearsal time again for my daughter’s dance company, and the parents are assigned to bring food for each meal. Sonia told me they needed a break from pasta, so we decided on enchiladas.

I made 21 enchiladas in a ¼ sheet baking pan. I made 10 more for the vegetarians, using pepper jack slices crumbled into Frijoles pintos along with the vegetables. You can make the broth below without the chicken for a vegetarian sauce.  I topped them with the heated sauce, more pepper jack, fresh cilantro leaves and olives after baking.

Broth ingredients:

16 cups (1 gallon) of water
2 chopped onions
8 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tb cumin powder (comino)
2 Tb. dried oregano
2 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
1 sliced bell pepper
2 Tb. salt to taste
8 each pasilla and California chilies
6 – oz can tomato paste
1 whole chicken
 
Vegetables:
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
3 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped  in bite-size chunks
3 large chayote, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped in bite-size chunks

2 Tb flour

Non-stick spray

21 corn tortillas for chicken enchiladas, plus 10 more for bean and cheese ones

1 can black olives

1 cup cotija cheese

1 bunch fresh cilantro

Avocados to garnish

Ideally the best way to make this is to make the chicken first, then let it cool enough to handle. Pour the broth into a container and refrigerate it until the fat congeals, then remove it. Make the sauce from the defatted broth. I didn’t have the time to do this, so made it all in one day. I used a fat separator cup to de-fat the broth. This nifty little gadget pours out the broth from the bottom of the cup as the grease rises; I then discard the fat.

Making the chicken: For this batch, I boiled a whole chicken with the spices, onions and other ingredients above.  Toast the chilies on a comal or heavy skillet first to maximize their flavor. Reserve 2 Tb of tomato paste for the sauce. I used pretty much the same recipe I used for Tamales de pollo Chicken  Tamales. It’s true you have to watch out for the chicken bones and you will get the grease, but the broth will be richer and  it’s more economical than boneless breasts, especially if the chicken is on sale!

After 40 minutes, I add the carrots, potatoes and chayote. After the chicken has cooked an hour, I turn off the heat and pull the chicken out of the broth into a large bowl. Since I was running out of time, I set the bowl inside a larger bowl (actually the bottom of my salad spinner) that I filled with a layer of ice cubes, to cool down the chicken. Using a fork and knife, I pulled the meat off the bones until it’s cool enough to handle.

I discard the skin, gristle and bones, and use my hands to shred the chicken. I then pour a cup or two of broth into the chicken, mixing it with my hands, so that the shredded chicken can absorb the flavors. You can cook it in a frying pan for 15 minutes to help it absorb the broth. Save the leftover broth to make sauce and   or Cocido de Res – Mexican Beef Stew

Mix some beans (Frijoles pintos) and the vegetables (carrots, potatoes and chayote) into the shredded chicken.

Making the sauce: This will make a nice spicy sauce. Pour about 4 cups of broth into a fat separator cup. Pour the defatted broth into a blender and discard the fat.  Add 2 Tb flour and 2 Tb tomato paste. Fish out the chili peppers and bell peppers from the pot and add them to the sauce. Whir in the blender a few minutes until smooth. I don’t peel the chili pods or discard the seeds. They just go into the sauce. If you don’t want such spicy sauce, you can discard the seeds and you can add more tomato paste. But remember, the sauce will taste hotter alone than it will be over the enchiladas. The tortillas are bland, as is the cheese, and the cilantro and avocado will cool it down a bit too. Heat the sauce in a medium saucepan for about 20 minutes, stirring until thickened. Adjust salt and let cool enough to handle.

Assembling the enchiladas: Preheat oven to 375’ and grease a large pan with nonstick spray. Pour a few inches of sauce into a shallow flat-bottomed bowl. Place a large plate nearby. Heat a comal or heavy griddle or skillet and place one or two tortillas on it until they are hot and softened, and barely crisp. Take out one of the tortillas and briefly immerse each side in the sauce until it is coated with the sauce, then place it on the plate.

Take a few tablespoons of the chicken mixture (double-check with your fingers that you have removed all the little rib bones) and place it inside the tortilla. Then roll it up and place it seam side down on the greased pan. Repeat. It’s nice to have a partner place the tortillas on the comal for you. When the pan is full, place it in the oven for 20 minutes, until the tortillas begin to dry out.

While enchiladas are baking, crumble cotija cheese in a small bowl, and add a few handfuls of cilantro leaves. Open a can of black olives and drain it. Heat remaining sauce to boiling. When enchiladas have baked, pour a line of sauce down the middle of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cotija cheese – cilantro mix over them and place a black olive in the middle of each enchilada. Nice served with soft sliced avocados.

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Kale and Bean Soup

Here’s another rainy day soup. I just dreamed it up and made it. Luckily everyone in the family liked it on the first try. The rosemary, thyme and garlic give it a lovely aroma.

I dice the kale, celery, leeks, and red bell pepper in the food processor for faster prep and cooking. Just discard the kale’s thick stems first.

I made this  using dried beans as well. I boiled them in chicken stock for 5 minutes, then transferred them to a crock pot and added the rest of the ingredients. I cooked it on “high” for 3-4 hours until beans and kale are tender. You can also heat the crock pot to high, then let it cook on low while you are at work, or overnight. This way you don’t have to worry about stirring the pot so the cheese won’t stick to the bottom! And homemade beans are so much better than canned ones!

In case there are leftovers, this soup is even better the next day, when flavors have developed even more..

serves 8 bowls

½ gallon (8 cups) homemade chicken or vegetable stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version) (you can use boxed stock, but it won’t be as good!)

1 rind Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tb extra virgin olive oil

2 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced, or 3 frozen cubes garlic

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp fresh rosemary needles, minced

1 tsp dried thyme plus 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

several grinds black pepper

1 or 2 bunches kale, finely chopped. I chop the whole thing, leaves and ribs. I’ve used Dinosaur and curly kale.

1 large leek, white and pale green parts only (use dark green parts in making the stock)

3 ribs celery

1 seeded red bell pepper

1 carrot, cooked in making the stock, chopped

1 15-oz can Great Northern beans OR 1 1/2 cups dry Great Northern beans

1 14-oz can artichoke hearts in water

salt to taste (sea salt is nice)

2 Tb Parmesan cheese, freshly grated per bowl

Heat broth to boiling. If using dry beans, rinse in a sieve, then boil in broth for 5 minutes. Let beans soak in the hot broth while you prepare the herbs and vegetables.

Add Parmesan rind, red and black pepper, oregano, bay leaf, garlic and rosemary. Chop kale leaves, leek, onion, celery, and bell pepper in the food processor in batches, or chop finely by hand, and stir into broth.

If using canned beans, rinse and add to pot. Chop artichoke hearts and carrot, stir into soup. Let cook 20 minutes on medium, and salt to taste. Discard Parmesan rinds when serving.

Minestrone Soup

Fall in the Bay Area brings a few weeks of sunshine to ripen tomatoes, then rainy and chilly days, perfect Minestrone Soup weather. Pick those ripened tomatoes off the withering vines, combine them with broth and chopped veggies and herbs in a big pot. This is a pretty forgiving recipe, so if you want to clean out the veggie bin of your fridge, throw in what you’ve got. You could use frozen veggies  or canned tomatoes. There is a use for everything, even Parmesan cheese rinds! The rind lends a wonderful flavor to the soup. If it doesn’t break up, leave it in the pot when serving.

10 servings:
1 or more Parmesan rinds
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced to make ½ cup
1 bunch red Swiss chard, leaves torn off ribs and chopped fine, to make about 3 ½ cups, dice the ribs
1 large red bell pepper, diced to make 1 cup
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms
1 Tb salt (to taste)
½  tsp fresh minced rosemary
1 Tb fresh minced oregano
1 tsp dried basil
6 cloves garlic, minced
several grinds black pepper
One package (4 links) Aidells sun-dried tomato with mozzarella cheese chicken sausage (optional)
1 bay leaf
several shakes red pepper flakes
10 cups (2 1/2 quarts) homemade chicken or vegetable stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or vegetable broth (you can use boxed stock, but it won’t be as good!)
1 can tomato paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (Roma is best)
1 tsp sugar
3-4 dried Porcini mushrooms
1 rind Parmesan cheese
1  cup peeled and diced carrots (2 large carrots)
2 peeled and diced red potatoes
2/3 cup small pasta (I used the tiny tubes called ditalini for my last batch, but I have also used salad macaroni)
4 small zucchini, diced to make 1 ½ cups
1/2 pound green beans, chopped
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped.
1 Tb fresh minced basil (about 5 leaves)
 
Garnish:
a few pinches dried oregano to taste
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Heat stock, Parmesan rinds, tomato paste, tomatoes and sugar in a large pot.

Grind dried Porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder or small food processor and add to the stock. Add salt to taste.

Fry onions, red bell pepper, chard ribs, garlic, crimini mushrooms, celery, and herbs in  olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add to stock.

Slice sausages in half lengthwise and then into half-coins. Stir fry in the same skillet as the onions were in for about 4 minutes, until browned. Add to soup, then ladle some soup into the frying pan and scrape the browned bits into the soup, then pour back into the pot.

Stir in carrots, chard leaves, and potato and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in pasta, canned beans, green beans, zucchini, parsley, corn and peas. Cook 10 minutes on medium. Stir in fresh basil.

Discard bay leaf and ladle into bowl. Stir in a pinch of dried oregano, fresh basil, and a few spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a slice of good bread such as sourdough, Acme herb slab, foccacia, olive bread, or baguette. Manga!

Chicken soupy rice

Happy once, happy twice,
happy chicken soup with rice

I used to sing this Maurice Sendak poem* to my kids while making them chicken soup with rice, one of the all time great comfort foods. Lately we’ve been suffering from stomach flu, which precludes most of that fresh produce I’m usually serving. Instead I made a soupy rice with a squeeze of lemon. It’s a simple dish that can be made in the rice cooker while napping.

Ingredients:

1 cup white rice (I used long grain)

5 cups homemade chicken broth: Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

1 tsp lemon juice

Cook rice with 3 cups broth in rice cooker, then stir in two more cup broth when cooker is done. Let sit 1/2 hour, then turn on cooker again until rice is heated through. You can also cook rice with 5 cups broth over the stove until rice softens (about 20 minutes.) Let sit so that rice soaks up more broth, about ½ an hour. It should be soupier than regular rice.  Serve with a tsp of lemon stirred in.

If you are not up for making homemade stock and have a box of  broth on hand, you can make this recipe using 2/3 cup rice to 3 cups broth in the rice cooker, then add the last cup after the cooker goes off. It won’t be as amazing as the homemade broth version, but it is easier.

Vegetarians and Vegans can make this recipe with vegetable stock.

* To see the entire poem, from “Chicken Soup with Rice, A Book of Months” by Maurice Sendak, as sung by Carole King, click here.

Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

OK the chicken doesn’t need to be Jewish. But this soup will cure any cold, which is why it’s called Jewish penicillin.

My Vietnamese student Dan gave me a the advice to break the bones to expose the marrow to add amazing flavor and nutrients to the broth.

Ingredients:

Bones, skin, herbs and vegetables from roasted chicken

add 2 more cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

3 stalks celery, leaves also, coarsely chopped

2 carrots chopped, or a handful of baby carrots

1 onion, coarsely chopped with skin

green part of leeks, coarsely chopped

2 tsp. salt, or to taste

black pepper

Water, about 1 gallon

After serving and boning chicken, reserve bones and skin and herbs. Break the bones to expose the marrow (I use kitchen shears). Return the bones to the soup and let it boil while you shred the chicken by hand. Discard lemon, or it will give a bitter flavor to your broth. Fill roasting pan with water, add more celery, garlic, salt and pepper, the green part of leeks and onions. Keep onion skin on for a golden color to your broth.

Directions:

Boil for at least an hour; two hours is better. Stir to get the drippings in the pan into your soup. They add a delicious flavor.

Let cool until you can handle the pan. Strain through a strainer and store in refrigerator. The next day you can skim the fat off with a slotted spoon and adjust seasonings. This broth can be used as a base for various soups. Serve topped with fresh  dill.

Add kneydlekh-(matzo balls) for special occasions like Passover and Rosh Hashanah or just to help the healing process.

You can also add rice or noodles to the broth.

My mother-in-law, the beautiful Conchita, immigrated from Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas with a flair for making meals that were bién rica.  I have adapted some of her  recipes such as sopa de fideo, which is Mexican chicken-noodle soup.  She fries the fideo, which is short vermicelli, and adds onions, tomatoes and salsa.

Vegan Version: Omit the chicken. Add 3 sprigs of rosemary, 5 sprigs thyme, 10 cilantro sprigs, a handful of parsley, 3 sage leaves, and 3  garlic cloves to ingredients. Boil the vegetables and herbs for an hour, then strain and use as a base for vegetable soups.